What is a Classic toy train?

2308 views
79 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
What is a Classic toy train?
Posted by The Gnome on Sunday, May 20, 2018 12:23 PM

As a newbie, i am trying to find out where i best fit in the model train community.  My layout is not an effort to reproduce a particular time, place or railroad.  Also, making perfect scenary is not my thing.  Instead, my continuous track runs in a circle around a village.  The track is HO.  The loco is a Bachmann on30 Porter.  A used Wabash gondola is on its way to me from an ebay seller.  

     The description for the Classic Toy Trains magazine does not mention Bachmann or on30.  I am not sure what i am doing counts as Classic.  Can someone enlighten me?  Or perhaps direct me to a site that would be a better fit?  

https://uniim1.shutterfly.com/ng/services/mediarender/THISLIFE/022039477468/media/53890111505/small/enhance

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Crystal Lake, IL
  • 7,962 posts
Posted by cnw1995 on Monday, May 21, 2018 10:09 AM

Welcome Gnome and what a nifty looking little layout! You are certainly welcome here. While I defer to any official response from forum moderators, I have enjoyed articles and reviews for these On30 engines and layouts in Classic Toy Trains' sister publication, Model Railroader. If you browse this forum, you may find more 'classic' O gauge engines and rolling stock from companies like Lionel, MTH, and Marx.

Doug Murphy 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers...' Henry V.

  • Member since
    January, 2006
  • From: Florida
  • 2,106 posts
Posted by traindaddy1 on Monday, May 21, 2018 1:45 PM

Welcome I like your layout. Reminds me of mine a little over fifty years ago.

HO is a wonderful world as you will probably find out if you tune into the Model Railroader forum. 

If you ever get bored with the little stuff Zzz or like some of us older guysWink your eyes start going and your fingers / hands don't  quite work the way they used to, come on over and join us with the larger O size.

As to your question.. I really don't know the answer. I'll leave it to the experts.

To me, a Classic Toy Train is one that has stood the test of time and can be identified as a typical or traditional example of a "toy" train.

This doesn't mean that modern made trains are not to be considered classics but only their representation as being, as such, toys.

(Side note) When I was "into" HO, many of my pals considered their trains as models of "real-life" trains and seriously shunned the idea that they were "toys" even if their consists qualified to be called classic toy trains.)

Wow did I get "off the track"!Sad

Enjoy the hobby. Wish you all the best.

 

 

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Monday, May 21, 2018 4:51 PM

Traindaddy,

thanks for the reply.  My eyes are not young anymore either, which is why I went with on30 instead of all ho.  My fantasy layout might appeal to my grandkids; they have not seen it yet.  

But after thinking about your comment, I can see that classic is related to age Of the train.    As I collect older cars, they might be considered by some to be classic.  However, presumably old junk does not count as classic.  A traditional brand, such as Lionel, might be safe.

anyway, i am starting to figure this out.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Monday, May 21, 2018 4:56 PM

Cnw,

thanks for the reply.  I will try to remember the lionel, mth and marx are classic train manufacturers.  This will help as i browse ebay.  

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,171 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Monday, May 21, 2018 7:50 PM

Welcome aboard Mr. Gnome!  And that's a nice layout you have!

I suppose if we were going to be "orthodox" about it a classic toy trains would be defined as either Standard or O gauge if pre-war, and O and S gauge if post-war, made by any one of a number of makers but most famously by Lionel, American Flyer, and Marx.

However, I'd suppose you could also call the floor or pull-toy trains of the 19th and early 20th Centurys as "classic toy trains" as well, but they don't get too much attention, at least not here.

We talk about modern production as well, but whether those will become "classic" only time will tell.  On30 might just fall into that category one day.

Anyway, whatever you like, don't be a stranger, we learn a lot from each other here and have a lot of fun doing it!

Speaking of classics, want to see a "Gnome" that's a classic and has nothing to do with toy trains?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYc-H8Wg-MQ

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Monday, May 21, 2018 9:42 PM

That was a cool gnome engine, Firelock.  Heck, i thought the first rotary engine was the Wankel.  Shows how weak my knowledge of history really is.

today i discovered FIMO and as an experiment made a little unicorn, so now my gnomes have livestock.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    November, 2011
  • 413 posts
Posted by Postwar Paul on Monday, May 21, 2018 9:45 PM

To me, it's not the equipment, but the spirit. There is a toy train look, and the treatment of the scenery that is different. When I first started reading CTT, I remember adapting the Toy train look to an HO layout. Bright colors, blue skies, and just an overall "Happy" feel, not so much going for realism. 

 So, you belong here with us, welcome!!

Paul

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 7:44 AM

Paul,

your feedback is reassuring.  My interests and skills do not lend themselves toward perfect realism and the style is definitely along the lines of a Toy.  Perhaps what i lack is the classic element.  On the other hand, a Bachmann Porter seems like a classic loco to me, even if Bachmann is not a classic maker and on30 is not a classic gauge.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    January, 2008
  • From: Near Altoona Pa.
  • 1,315 posts
Posted by Banks on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 7:53 AM

Welcome Gnome.

Thats a nice little layout you have there.

To me a Classic Toy Train is whatever you like.

I've been with the forum 10 years. My main I interest in Gilbert HO that was made by American Flyer. Last few years I've been dabbling with Prewar started with the set dad and his brother got from Santa in 1929.

Since I recently retired the layout I've been planning for 30 years will soon start. Primarily HO with a loop of O.  Planned to be what could have been under a Christmas tree of the late 50s.

Come over to the Coffee Pot and join us.

Banks, Proud member of the OTTS  TCA 12-67310

I may not have every thing I desire but the LORD has come through with what I need

   

  • Member since
    July, 2003
  • From: Wisconsin
  • 2,717 posts
Posted by Bob Keller on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 8:56 AM

For the purpose of the magazine it is, broadly speaking, Standard gauge, O, and S gauge trains in the pre and postwar eras. That was our founding focus. Modern Standard gauge, O and S gauge trains are now part of the coverage. We have dabbled in vintage Lionel, Flyer, and Marx HO but our audience generally views HO distantly.

We used to include Large scale trains, but that shifted after we bought Garden Railways magazine.

The term pretty much means something different to everyone – we get calls about kids pull toy trains, where to find parts for no-brand plastic Christmas trains, and anythng else that is a train that may be played with (such as Auburn's rubber trains). But as Banks says, it is whatever you want it to be.

Bob Keller Classic Toy Trains

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 9:21 AM

Mr Banks, i can see that this group is the opposite of rigid.  Your willingness to mix ho and O on the same layout boggled my mind.  If you can do that, then anything goes, even my little unicorn.  Those ho cars that are off to the side may have to get on my track.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 11:08 AM

For the purpose of the magazine it is, broadly speaking, Standard gauge, O, and S gauge trains in the pre and postwar eras. 

Bob,

your explanation is official, so i have been pondering it.  My analysis is this: when people write about the classic eras, they might mean one of the following.

1. The era when the toy train was manufactured (Perhaps vintage or antique would be more precise words).

2.  The era being modeled.

3.  The age of the modeler (i.e., old guys like me).

perhaps some people are running trains manufactured in the prewar era, but not many.  Many no doubt are nostalgically modeling trains extant in their youth or a time they regard fondly, such as when their parents or grandparents were working.  These trains would have been originally sold more recently than the postwar era, for the most part.

 

these are just speculations..

 

 

 

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    April, 2005
  • From: South Carolina
  • 9,242 posts
Posted by rtraincollector on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 3:09 PM

If you use the term of automobiles classic is usually 25 years I think. so in that case anything from 1993 or before would be a classic train. To me like some of the others in here Classic trains are mainly 1969 and before ( 1969 was the last year for post war ( 1945 - 1969 ) and prewar is 1900 - 1942. I have trains from all era's but would have to say now that probably my largest collection is Prewar, then Postwar items. 

Life's hard, even harder if your stupid  John Wayne

http://rtssite.shutterfly.com/

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 4:38 PM

rtraincollector,

i am guessing from your name that you seek out and buy trains that actually were made prior to 1940, instead of more recently manufactured trains that are based on the same prototypes.  That would mean your collection is composed of train cars and locos that are about eighty years old.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    February, 2008
  • 239 posts
Posted by robmcc on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 4:47 PM

I was thinking similar to what RT said. The term "Classic" is usually relative to time. I never thought of my 1983 Z28 as a "Classic", but it technically qualifies as one. I can even get heritage plates for it. When CTT released it's first issue in 1987, the Postwar period had ended just 18 years prior. Fast forward to now and MTH is 25 years since releasing their first catalog and TMCC is approaching 25 years. Do these qualify as classic? I think Banks did sum it up best - It's whatever you like!

  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,171 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 5:02 PM

What makes a "classic" automobile?  That's easy!

If it was around when my father was a kid it's a classic.  If it was around when I was a kid, it's a bomb!

With a few exceptions. like George Barris' Batmobile.  And the "Superman" cars from the 50's, I'll allow that.

  • Member since
    September, 2010
  • From: Parma Heights Ohio
  • 2,283 posts
Posted by Penny Trains on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 8:12 PM

Welcome Aboard!

The Gnome
even if Bachmann is not a classic maker

Well, they are, to their own degree.  Bachmann has been making the Plasticville line of structure kits to augment O and S gauge trains since the 1950's.  In recent years they also bought Williams Trains which started out as "Williams Reproductions" producing copies of Lioenl standard gauge trains from the 1920's.  Later on they started making versions of postwar trains that also had been out of production for many years.  In a way, Williams made it possible for many a toy train lover to get their hands on locomotives they could run on their layouts that otherwise had become cost prohibitive due to their rarity and collector value.  So, Bachmann has a more than legitimate claim to the title "classic maker".  Big Smile

Toy trains, Plasticville buildings and the Christmas tree.  A classic holiday scene!  Big Smile

Becky

A waking Lithium Flower just about to bloom

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Tuesday, May 22, 2018 10:13 PM

Mr Penny Trains,

my structures are scratch built.  Very crude but i am more fond of them then i would be of plasticville stuff.

regarding the classic toy trains designation, i will argue the narrow gauge trainsPp are from a classic era, even if the Bachmann Porters are not antiques. That might be as close as i am going to get to being classic.  

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Middle o' Nowhere, MO
  • 1,013 posts
Posted by palallin on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 8:41 AM

The term "Postwar" is beginning to slip in its application.  Consider:  the end of the MPC era is about the same distance from us as the beginning of the MPC era is from the end of the PREwar era.

I would certainly consider the B-mann 2-6-0 (and the accompanying sets) a classic:  not only does it have age on it, it is now being "reissued" in updated format with DCC & sound installed.  It gave birth to the On30 surge that changed the landscape for many model RRs and for Bachamnn Industries.  Designed for under-the-tree trains for the Dept 56 crowd, it caught the eye of MANY model RRs and gave an obscure scale/gauge combination such a boost that it occupies a bigger niche than O 2 rail standard gauge and displaced a goodly fraction of the ever-popular HO dominance.  In fact, mauch of the current O Scale produciton is aimed directly at the On30 slice of the pie, and all the other slices of O benefit from it.

My 3 rail Hi-rail O layout includes an On30 loop and sidings, and they play very well together.

 

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 9:30 AM

Palallin,

based on your experience, which is better:

convert an ho car to on30 by rebuilding to make it taller, or

convert a O car to on30 by switching out the trucks and wheels?

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 4:54 PM

The feedback from this group got my mental gears turning and as a result the gnomes went back in their box.  The new theme is the line between Peru and Wabash Indiana in 1904.  The Wabash-Peru interurban was formed in 1901.  The Fort Wayne and Wabash Valley RR was launched in 1904.  Presumably the interurban line was narrow gauge.  It could have been a traction line but may not have been.  Most likely they used wooden excursion cars.

The FWWV would have been carrying agricultural products, so I will need a grain hopper and a stock car.

the Wabash railroad owned the interurban at one time. I think I can go with Wabash train cars. My shopping list is starting to take shape.

the layout will have the two towns at opposite ends.  The center should be rural Indiana, tree-lined country roads, fields and of course the Wabash River.  The tracks follow the river, i think.

the layout will remain small in size.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,171 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 5:51 PM

It might be a lot easier for you to convert an O gauge car to On30 by switching trucks.  On30 is supposed to be O scale but in a narrow-gauge form.

Full-size O scale cars may look a little strange on those smaller trucks though, you may want to stick with the classic post-war cars that were 027 and 031 compatible.

And check her avatar, it's MS Penny Trains!

And trust me, she knows all about scratchbuilding!  You'd be amazed, as we all are.

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Thursday, May 24, 2018 9:14 AM

Perhaps i should show pictFWWV interurbanures.  

The original actually had the stations listed on the right front.

https://www.shutterfly.com/picturepicker/viewTabletPicturePicker.sfly?fid=c29a0566c64505636cbbd47cbb382743

The Peru-Wabash was a different company, purchased later by the Wabash RR.  I do not know whether they used the same track.

 

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    September, 2004
  • From: Middle o' Nowhere, MO
  • 1,013 posts
Posted by palallin on Thursday, May 24, 2018 9:28 AM

Neither one is really a good idea.  Narrow Gauge equipment and rolling stock was a great deal smaller than standard gauge.  Even the small O27 cars Firelock 76 recommends tend to be huge compared to On30 cars.

Check out these comparison pics of two engines with teh same wheel arrangement.  One is standard gauge, the other narrow.  And the NG engine is a very large example on a 3 foot gauge engine while the SG engine is of moderate size.

https://ogrforum.ogaugerr.com/topic/big-mike-andamp-little-mike?reply=21280719150342701

 

 

 

I have seen very good results from putting On30 trucks under S scale cars, though, particualrly the old American Flyer Postwar kind.

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Thursday, May 24, 2018 10:55 AM

Palallin, those pctures prove your point.  I will have to look at S scale.  Hopefully changing the wheels would not be too difficult.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    September, 2010
  • From: Parma Heights Ohio
  • 2,283 posts
Posted by Penny Trains on Thursday, May 24, 2018 7:29 PM

Yeah, I'd tend to agree.  It would look very odd to see this porter pulling the car it's riding on:

Even with smaller non-scale Lionel locos like this one, a modified 2026:

I did consider using On30 coaches retrofitted with standard Lionel trucks for Disneyland service at one time.  But they would have looked way too small behind a Lionel General.  K-Line had a line of cars made from Marx molds that were fitted with S gauge AF-compatable trucks and in my opinion they didn't look right either.

A waking Lithium Flower just about to bloom

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Thursday, May 24, 2018 7:51 PM

 Browsing forums today, I learned that Bachmann often uses 6’ as the width for freight cars, which i think is sensible.  Presumably narrow gauge trains way back when would want their cars to not be so fat that they would waddle down the track. Presumably narrow gauge trains would not be next to full size trains because they ride on different tracks.  So side by side comparisons are not necessary.  It needs to look ok by itself.

Anyway it seems the main difference between ho and on30 is height.  Today, as an experiment, I cut the top off of an ho freight car.  My goal for tomorrow, wife permitting, is to grab some styrene from the hobby store and glue one extra inch around the top of the car, putting the lid back on and painting.  Maybe all those steps cannot be completed before we leave town for the holiday.  But the goal is to see how it looks.

However, i am struggling with the height of the gondola.  Apparently they were not all the same height, especially in 1900.  Does this mean an ho gondola can be used without modification?  I could just call it a shorty.  The cherry red gondola has already been painted black.  I threw some wood in it to serve as freight and it looks ok to me.  But realism has never been my thing.

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share
  • Member since
    August, 2010
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 8,171 posts
Posted by Firelock76 on Thursday, May 24, 2018 8:07 PM

Remember now, in the real railroad world in some places it wasn't unusual for cars to be interchanged between standard gauged and narrow gauged roads by lifting the carbodies off the standard gauge trucks and lowering them onto narrow gauge trucks.  Typically they were 40 foot boxcars. 

Go to the "Trains" magazine website, then their Forum, look for the topic "Transferring Freight Between Standard and Narrow Gauge..."  for a discussion of the same.

  • Member since
    May, 2018
  • 125 posts
Posted by The Gnome on Thursday, May 24, 2018 9:33 PM

FWWV interurban

That was an interesting discussion.  Clearly, the wide cars on the narrow tracks were not ideal.

my new focus in the Hoosier interurbans.  Those cars were made for narrow gauge.  The Fort Wayne and Wabash Valley RR (my RR) must have carried some freight as well as running the trolleys.  They could have ordered narrower cars if they wanted to.  Presumably they would have wanted to do that.  

But the old ones were wooden and a head on collision was bad.

Rural indiana wreck

Jim R https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voS6dePOx3c&feature=share

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

FREE EMAIL NEWSLETTER

Get the Classic Toy Trains newsletter delivered to your inbox twice a month